I’ve never stepped foot inside of a Whole Foods. However, that doesn’t preclude me from having strong opinions about it, all of which are harsh and baseless. You might think that makes me a bad person, and you may very well be correct. And hey, maybe I’ve been missing out all these years. Maybe artisanal asparagus water would change my life and allow me to fart rainbows and poop unicorns. But then I wouldn’t be able to ride around on my high horse denouncing something I, for no reason other than I think it makes me edgy, find to be totally excessive and elitist. Now I’ll take a few moments to bask in my own irrational indignation as it has sold itself out to online retail giant Amazon.
The Whole Foods brand, of course, isn’t going anywhere, though. It seems that brands never die, no matter how bad they fail or how tarnished their reputations become. (Hey, even Bill Cosby managed to eke out a mistrial, so there’s that.) They just change and become more watered down until they become some shade of beige with a logo slapped on top of it.
It wasn’t even four years ago that Whole Foods was riding high on the grass-fed, antibiotic-free hog. Its stock price maxed out at $65 per share. They were seen as a pioneer in the world of organic food grocers. But it didn’t take long for the rest of the food world to catch up with them. Other larger retailers got hip to the trend toward organic foods. Whole Foods was then rocked by a couple of overpricing scandals and shareholders started to jump ship. Whole Foods’ stock lost more than half of its value by the end of 2016.
This would be kind of a bummer if Whole Foods’ CEO John Mackey wasn’t a total prick. Like, I never met the guy or really know that much about him, but it’s probably safe to assume he is. Mackey has the sort of rags-to-riches story that might lead you to believe the American Dream isn’t dead and gone. He opened his first organic grocery, Safer Way, in Austin, Texas, in the late ‘70s after living in a vegetarian commune named Prana (oh, that’s sooooo cool). Eventually, Whole Foods grew to become a national giant, with stores all over the country. When the company opened a megastore in New York City, people lined up outside just to be the first ones to shop there. Why anyone would be that excited about a grocery store is beyond me, but maybe quinoa is the only reason they get out of bed in the morning. I think that’s sort of sad, but who am I to judge?
With Whole Foods stock prices in the tank, a hedge fund named Jana Partners (I bet they’re a bunch of jerks, too) bought up 9 percent of the company’s shares in an effort to “pressure the company to either overhaul its business or sell itself,” according to an article on Texasmonthly.com.
“These people, they just want to sell Whole Foods Market and make hundreds of millions of dollars, and they have to know that I’m going to resist that,” Mackey later said in the same article. “That’s my baby. I’m going to protect my kid, and they’ve got to knock Daddy out if they want to take it over.”
It didn’t seem like Daddy put up too much of a fight. Amazon purchased Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, which seems like a steal considering that much would probably only get you a head of romaine lettuce and a bushel of strawberries at most Whole Foods locations. Amazon, the flaming pile of dicks they are, bought Whole Foods in an attempt to give a big fuck you to Walmart, also a corporation of douchebags. Walmart had already purchased Jet.com, which I honestly never heard of, in order to challenge Amazon’s online retail dominance. And it’s not enough for Amazon to be the kingpin of peddling things on the internet, so they’ve bought Whole Foods in order to challenge Walmart’s dominion over the brick-and-mortar world.
Will it work? Believe it or not, 56 percent of Walmart’s $486 billion in profits last year came from grocery sales, according to Reuters. Amazon plans to change Whole Foods’ image a bit by lowering the grocer’s prices. So Walmart may have a serious battle on its hands, but even so, what’s the endgame here? How much more can Amazon and Walmart have? How long is it before they absorb one another to become the amoebic Walmazon Multi-Corp, a hydra-like monster made up of douche-y CEOs and dick-y entrepreneurs gobbling up whatever’s in their path?
I guess I should feel bad for Mackey. Even though I prefer to believe he’s a steaming pile of garbage, Whole Foods was his life’s work, and he had to let it go. I’ll just think of him dabbing his tears with hundred dollar bills if that inclination ever arises.